Louisiana Democratic Party

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Louisiana Democratic Party
Chairperson Karen Carter Peterson
Senate leader Sharon Weston Broome (acting)
House leader Walt Leger, III (acting)
Founded 1828; 190 years ago (1828)
Headquarters PO Box 4385
Baton Rouge, LA 70821
Ideology Populism (historical)
Modern liberalism
National affiliation Democratic Party
Colors      Blue
Seats in the Upper House
15 / 39
Seats in the Lower House
45 / 105

The Louisiana Democratic Party is the affiliate of the Democratic Party in the state of Louisiana.

The party historically has been prominent in politics since before the American Civil War, but consolidated this power after Reconstruction as a result of the rise of the Solid South. Since the official end of reconstruction in 1877 the Democratic party has won 31 of 35 elections for governor.[1] During this period Democrats won the governorship in every election from 1877 until the election of Republican David Treen in 1980.[2] Recently, the Democratic Party has seen a steep decline in the number of offices it holds in Louisiana state government and in the United States Congress.

Current Democratic officeholders

The Louisiana Democratic Party holds none of the seven statewide constitutional offices and no majority in either legislative chambers. Democrats also hold one of its six U.S. House seats.

Members of Congress

U.S. Senate

U.S. House of Representatives

Statewide offices


Party structure

The party and its members are governed by a set of by-laws, which explain how the party is to operate and the responsibilities officials of the party have.[3] The party further operates under a party constitution adopted in 1998 consisting of 11 articles. The articles cover the topics of: subordination, name, purpose, party membership, management, election, composition and appointment of the Democratic State Central Committee, organization of committee, officers, by-laws and amendments.[4]

Party leadership is broken up into three section: the Executive Committee, the Louisiana Democratic Central Committee and Parish Executive Committees. The Executive Committee consists of a chairman, four vice-chairman, two DNC committee persons, one DNC at-large, a vice chair of elected officials, a secretary, treasurer, clerk, legal counsel, and a parliamentarian. Each congressional district also receives two seats on the executive committee. The Louisiana Democratic Central Committee consists of a female and male committee member from each of the 105 State House Districts. Parish Executive Committees are set up in a similar fashion as the Party Executive Committee. Members serving in these positions generally serve a term of four years. [5]

The party also has staff positions occupied by Stephen Handwerk as Executive Director, Michelle Brister as Deputy Executive Director, Drew Prestridge as Finance Director, and Beau Tidwell as Communications Director.[6]

Party history

Early history

The Democratic Party appeared in Louisiana by the middle 1830s. The party itself was the product of the Jacksonians, "who had come to be called simply Democrats."[7] The early support for the Democratic Party came from cotton producers, whom supported the antitariff stance of the party, and people of Latin ancestry. By the 1840s New Orleans saw a bump in the number of Democratic supporters as a result of an influx of thousands of Irish and German immigrants.[8] As the Civil War approached the main opposition party to the Democrats, the Whigs, collapsed. The dispute over the issue of slavery forced the Whigs into two main camps, those who opposed the expansion of slavery and those who agreed with the Democrats' stance "that the expansion of slavery was essential to its survival."[9] This left the Democratic Party in power in antebellum Louisiana with the new opposition party, the Know-Nothing's only holding power in New Orleans for a brief period of time.[10]

Governors of Louisiana

Alexandre Mouton first Democratic Governor of Louisiana.

The Democratic Party took hold of its first governorship in 1843 with the election of Alexandre Mouton. It would continue to win elections throughout the rest of the antebellum period. At the onset of the Civil War the Democratic party won both elections held for the governorship in the portions of Louisiana that were held by the Confederate States of America. During Reconstruction the party's dominance of the governors office was placed on hiatus. As Reconstruction ended in 1877 the Democratic party regained control of state politics and would dominate every election for governor until 1980. This loss effectively ended the dominance the Democratic party held of the Louisiana governors office for over a century. Since 1980 the governorship has been split with four Louisiana democrats holding the office and four republicans.[11]

As part of the Solid South

Throughout the 1880s Jim Crow laws and institutionalized forms of racism arose in the Solid South. The white democratic elite of this time began making moves to disenfranchise both poor whites and blacks. In 1898 the Democratically held state legislature passed a new constitution aimed at disenfranchising black voters and as a consequence poor white voters also. The new constitution contained voter registration requirements such as: literacy tests, property requirements, and a grandfather clause.[12] During the Solid South era Louisiana democrats passed laws that provided for segregation.[13]

Civil rights era

The Civil Rights era across the South was the beginning of a turning point in the voting electorate for the Democratic Party. As a result of the national Democratic Party's position on civil rights and Lyndon B. Johnson's intention to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 many southern white voters began to leave the party in favor of the Republican Party.[14] The process of party switching, however, appears to have been slower than in other parts of the South as is evidenced by the party continuing to win governorships. As a result, in the change in policy since the Civil Rights Era, there has been an increase in voter turnout from black voters for the party.[15]

Current events

Recent elections

There has been a quick decline in the number of offices the Democratic Party holds, both statewide and at the national level in Louisiana. In 2004 Democrats held both Senate seats as well as six statewide offices. By February 2011, the defection of the only statewide elected Democrat occurred when Louisiana Attorney General, Buddy Caldwell, switched to the Republican Party of Louisiana.[16] The slipping of the Democratic Party's hold on state offices worsened in September 2011 when the party failed to field a major candidate for any of the statewide offices for the November elections.[17] Despite trouble at the State level, the Democratic party appears to be keeping its appeal at a local level. In November 2011, Democrats retained 45 seats in the Louisiana House of Representatives and added five new members to the House.

First Female Chair

In April 2012, the party's governing Committee, the 210-member State Central Committee, elected Karen Carter Peterson chair, ousting former party leader Claude "Buddy" Leach. Peterson is the first female, and only the second African-American, to serve as party chair in the Louisiana Democratic Party's long history.[18] Peterson is a member of the Louisiana State Senate from New Orleans.

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina had a large political impact on the Democratic Party. After the storm there was a twofold shift in the political electorate. "First, the exodus of Democratic voters to Texas, Florida and other parts of the country could affect local and statewide races in Louisiana--to the benefit of Republicans. At the same time, many of those who left New Orleans went to other parts of Louisiana, producing new micro-electorates where Democrats have moved into traditionally Republican areas."[19] Included in this shift of power was Baton Rouge, which saw a population increase of 50,000 people after Katrina. The shift in electorate allowed Don Cazayoux to win the 6th district U.S House seat "after more than three decades under Republican control."[20]

See also


  1. "The Governors of Louisiana". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  2. "The Governors of Louisiana". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  3. http://www.lademo.org/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/463186
  4. http://www.lademo.org/ht/action/GetDocumentAction/id/463184
  5. http://www.lademo.org/ht/d/sp/i/204427/pid/204427
  6. "Party Staff". Louisiana Democrats. Retrieved 2015-11-10. 
  7. Taylor, Joe Gray (1976). Louisiana, a bicentennial history. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. p. 84. ISBN 0-393-05602-3. 
  8. Taylor, Joe Gray (1976). Louisiana, a bicentennial history. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. p. 84. ISBN 0-393-05602-3. 
  9. Taylor, Joe Gray (1976). Louisiana, a bicentennial history. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. p. 86. ISBN 0-393-05602-3. 
  10. Taylor, Joe Gray (1976). Louisiana, a bicentennial history. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. p. 86. ISBN 0-393-05602-3. 
  11. "The Governors of Louisiana". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  12. "State Constitution of Louisiana, 1898, Suffrage and Elections". Yale University. Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  13. "Jim Crow Laws: Louisiana". Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  14. Apple, R.W. "G.O.P Tries Hard to Win Black Votes, but Recent History Works Against It". New York Times. Retrieved 30 November 2011. 
  15. Apple, R.W. "G.O.P Tries Hard to Win Black Votes, but Recent History Works Against It". New York Times. Retrieved 30 November 2011. 
  16. "Attorney General Buddy Caldwell switches to Republican". Times-Picayune. Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  17. Tilove, Johnathan. "Louisiana Democrats field no major candidates for statewide office". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 30 November 2011. 
  18. Grace, Stephanie (15 March 2012). "Changing of the guard for Louisiana Democrats". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  19. Daniels, Doug (October 2008). "After the floods". Campaigns & Elections. 29 (10): 28–34. 
  20. Daniels, Doug (October 2008). "After the floods". Campaigns & Elections. 29 (10): 28–34. 

External links